Alberta Minister of Health Tyler Shandro says the decision to ease quarantine rules for close contacts, discontinue masking on public transit and in schools, was left up to the chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw. (File photo by The Canadian Press)

Alberta Minister of Health Tyler Shandro says the decision to ease quarantine rules for close contacts, discontinue masking on public transit and in schools, was left up to the chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw. (File photo by The Canadian Press)

Alberta reports 233 new cases of COVID-19, active cases up to 1,520

Hospitalizations and Intensive Care Unit patients rise slightly

As COVID-19 cases climb in Alberta, the province continues to defend its decision to move into the next phase of its COVID-19 plan.

At a press conference Thursday in Edmonton, Alberta Minister of Health Tyler Shandro, said the decision to ease quarantine rules for close contacts, discontinue masking on public transit and in schools, as well as not requiring isolation after a positive COVID-19 test after Aug. 16, was left up to the Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

“For a couple of months, both we and Dr. Hinshaw have been talking about the transition from a pandemic response to an endemic response. As we see our vaccination numbers rise, in first doses and second doses impacts how we make our transition,” Shandro said.

“We live with a virus in our community and this is now a virus that Dr. Hinshaw has said is preventable by vaccines.”

The province reported 233 new cases Thursday, based on 7,857 tests, for a positivity rate of nearly three per cent. There are 1,520 active cases, with 89 people in hospital, which is five more than Wednesday and 20 in the ICU, up two from the previous day.

There were no new deaths over the past 24 hours, keeping Alberta’s death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic at 2,325.

Alberta also identified 188 new variant cases over the last 24 hours, with the active variant cases up to 1,103. The province also reported 171 new Delta variant cases.

Both hospitalizations and severe outcomes were tabbed by Hinshaw on Wednesday as numbers to watch as the province continues to deal with COVID-19.

The province will also end widespread testing for COVID-19 next month, instead of only testing those with severe symptoms and requiring hospitalization.

Shandro expressed confidence in the new phased approach.

“This is going to be the inevitable next step for all provinces. We are leading the way in moving to the endemic response like we’ve led the way throughout the response to the pandemic,” Shandro said.

As the province battles rising case numbers, they have also administered more than 5.2 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, with 75.7 per cent of the population 12 and over receiving at least one dose and 64.6 per cent of people fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, the Central zone sits at 80 active cases of COVID-19, with five people in hospital and none in the ICU.

According to geospatial mapping on the provincial government’s website, Red Deer is at 16 active cases of the virus, one more than Wednesday’s reporting. The city has 5,747 recovered cases and 43 deaths.

The City of Lacombe has 13 active cases, Red Deer County has seven active, while Mountain View County and Lacombe County each have six. Olds, Sylvan Lake, Camrose County and Clearwater County each have three. The City of Camrose and the City of Wetaskiwin both have no cases of the virus, while Drumheller has one.

On the local geographic area setting, Wetaskiwin, including Maskwacis has three active cases and Ponoka, including East Ponoka County has one. Rimbey, including West Ponoka County and parts of Lacombe County, sits at two active.